Care providers and friends since their school days, Jennifer Millich (left) and BreAnne Marcucci talk with Gabbie Machado and her 1-year-old son, Braylon, in one of the comfortable rooms they have created at Pacific Wellness and Lactation. The two caregivers provide postpartum and newborn care, as well as breastfeeding support. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Care providers and friends since their school days, Jennifer Millich (left) and BreAnne Marcucci talk with Gabbie Machado and her 1-year-old son, Braylon, in one of the comfortable rooms they have created at Pacific Wellness and Lactation. The two caregivers provide postpartum and newborn care, as well as breastfeeding support. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

New moms get a little help from friends

Two childhood neighbors start a free support group for breastfeeding mothers.

EVERETT — BreAnne Marcucci and Jennifer Millich are back in the neighborhood where they met as children, with a mission to help moms and babies stay healthy.

They opened Pacific Wellness and Lactation in November, after two years of planning. They provide postpartum and newborn care along with breastfeeding support.

When they launched the business, they also started a free support group for breastfeeding moms. They know it can be hard to find help, particularly for low-income families. Not all insurance plans cover lactation consultations and many resources are in Seattle, a difficult trip for a mother with a newborn and limited transportation.

Mothers can bring their babies any time between 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays to 11314 4th Ave. W, Suite 108, not far from Mariner High School. During the group, Marcucci and Millich weigh babies and help moms with positioning and nursing.

They can catch problems early, they said. If a baby isn’t gaining enough weight or isn’t nursing well, Marcucci and Millich talk to the family about additional care.

The two biggest concerns patients have are that their baby isn’t eating enough, or that the mother is having pain during nursing. Many of the women are referred by a pediatrician or through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. It can cost upwards of $140 out of pocket for a lactation consultation, Marcucci said. For most families they see, that’s out of the budget.

“This is such a fragile period in a mom and baby’s life,” Millich said.

So far, the group has drawn between one and four visitors per session, but they hope to see it grow. They want the mothers to be able to lean on one another.

“If you’re a mom, you just want to share,” Marcucci said. “If it’s all wonderful, you want to share the good. But if it’s not, you want to talk about it.”

Regular check-ins also offer a chance to watch for signs of postpartum depression or anxiety. Trouble breastfeeding can go hand-in-hand with emotional health, Marcucci said. She and Millich have a room for a mental health professional who specializes in postpartum care. They haven’t found someone yet, but are hopeful they’ll be able to offer that service soon.

“We have a big investment in this area, and we just saw this as a need,” Marcucci said. “The whole community is dear to our hearts. We grew up here. Our families live here.”

Marcucci graduated from Mariner High School, as did Katrina Craddock, who helps run the office. They were cheerleaders together, and now Craddock coaches.

Millich lived down the street from Marcucci when they were children, and graduated from Arlington High School after she and her family moved north. All three women are mothers, as well.

Gabbie Machado came for the support group last month. She brought her 1-year-old son, Braylon. Machado also volunteers there to gain experience for her lactation consultant certification exam.

Braylon is eating well. Checking in regularly with Marcucci and Millich has been a huge help, Machado said. It’s not just knowing her baby’s weight and monitoring his growth, but also being able to talk to two women who are mothers and medical professionals. Marcucci is a family nurse practitioner and Millich is a registered nurse. Both are certified lactation consultants.

“I think (they) are providing a great resource for moms and newborns that not many or any other clinics and hospitals in the county provide or offer without billing,” she said. “It’s a great way to reach out to new moms and offer that support that not a lot get nowadays.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

For more information on the free drop-in group for breastfeeding moms, call 425-322-4913 or go to pwlactation.com.

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